Do your genes determine your strength?
Is it taking you a long time to build muscle strength? It might be genetic. A new study has identified, for the first time, genetic variants linked to muscle strength.
You’re well aware of the best way to get stronger: log time at the gym and put in the work. Of course, it always seems to be easier for some people to get cut—a fact that can be incredibly frustrating when it isn’t you. But new research has found a possible reason behind that: Some people just have strength in their DNA.
That’s the takeaway from a new Nature Communications review, which identified for the first time common genetic factors that influence a person’s muscle strength. For the review, researchers used data on hand grip strength from more than 140,000 people from the UK Biobank study (a major source of health data) and added 50,000 more subjects from the UK, Netherlands, Denmark, and Australia. In their analysis, the scientists ID'ed 16 common genetic variants linked to muscle strength.
Most of the variants were located in or near genes related to muscle function, including ones that determine the structure and function of muscle fibers and how the body’s nervous system communicates with its muscle cells. Single mutations in those genes are known to cause muscular conditions and, scientists discovered, may also determine how strong people are. The researchers say they hope their findings could help prevent or treat muscle weakness in the future.
Of course, it’s important to point out that the review looked at hand grip strength and not, say, someone’s ability to bench their body weight. But good hand grip strength has been linked to a bunch of positive health outcomes like a lowered risk of mortality and heart disease, in addition to general strength.
So, next time you’re stuck flipping car tires while your gym partner is working his way through the tractor-sized version, don’t get frustrated—it may be a genetic advantage, and you’ll get there eventually.